The bigger picture

The morning’s news report included word of another large tornado. This one ripped into a Kansas City suburb, injuring at least a dozen people a day after dozens of violent storms that had killed one person and injured at least 130 in Indiana and Ohio, part of a barrage of tornado warnings stretching from Idaho to Pennsylvania and New York City. The Midwestern twisters, according to the report, “peeled away roofs — leaving homes looking like giant dollhouses — knocked houses off their foundations, toppled trees, brought down power lines and churned up so much debris that it was visible on radar.”

The news reports, accompanied by typical accounts of the damage by emergency responders, eyewitnesses and victims, came as much of the Midwest as well as Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana have seen record flooding, and in the aftermath of news about Congress refusing to approve $19 Billion for disaster relief for last fall’s hurricanes in Texas and several southern states and as well as 2017 hurricanes in Puerto Rico and fire-ravaged rural California and the Midwest flooding.

Perhaps as frightening as the events that are taking place before our eyes is the way in which they are reported as isolated, tragic, events that are out of context of the larger cause, as part of a pattern not all that dissimilar to the colossal rise in mass shootings at schools and elsewhere.

Each of those violent events grips the nation with accounts of the suffering, but each occasion is deemed an inappropriate moment to call the nation’s attention to curbing gun violence or even calling for a national debate on the issue. And with each incident, just as with each seemingly isolated extreme weather disaster, we gradually become numb to what's occurred.

Instead of considering the larger issues we are facing, and looking to government to help design solutions to the mounting problems we are facing, we are witnessing massive denial of the causes and an utter inability to grapple with serious debate on finding solutions.

What makes the nearly constant barrage of weather disasters especially concerning are the separate news stories concerning climate change -- with the federal government’s own National Climate Assessment agreeing with nearly all scientific evidence globally that human-caused greenhouse gases are trapping heat and dramatically warming the planet.

The 2018 government report concluded that in the Southwest, droughts will curtail hydropower and tax already limited water supplies, and that in Alaska, the loss of sea ice will cause coastal flooding and erosion and force communities to relocate, while Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will experience tainted drinking water from saltwater contamination, with more people dying from extreme heat and from widespread disease outbreaks.

Yet while the government assessment concluded decisively that the burning of fossil fuels was warming the atmosphere, President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled this country out of the Paris Climate Accord, “brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis,” according to The New York Times.

In the midst of the seeming nonstop list of dire weather superlatives, we’re learning that the White House plans to further roll back federal curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions and try to force its policies on other parts of the world, with further attacks on climate science.

While weather emergencies are not all directly a result of climate change, and there has been no direct link found between tornado activity and concentrations of greenhouse gases in ou atmosphere, we have to note that the recent frequency of tornado activity in the Northeaset is another bizarre occurrence that's gradually being normalized.,

It should be clear to anyone paying attention that the frequency and scale of the tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts and other disasters have been worsening dramatically, as the handwriting across the sky: "This is real."

“Members of Trump’s cabinet,” Naomi Klein has written, “with their desperate need to deny the reality of global warming, or belittle its implications”, nonetheless “understand something that is fundamentally true. To avert climate chaos, we need to challenge the free-market fundamentalism that has conquered the world since the 1980s.”

Perhaps as frightening as the events that are taking place before our eyes is the way in which they are reported as isolated, tragic, events that are out of context of the larger cause, as part of a pattern not all that dissimilar to the colossal rise in mass shootings at schools and elsewhere.

Each of those violent events grips the nation with accounts of the suffering, but each occasion is deemed an inappropriate moment to call the nation’s attention to curbing gun violence or even calling for a national debate on the issue. And with each incident, just as with each seemingly isolated extreme weather disaster, we become less shocked by what has occurred.

Instead of considering the larger issues we are facing, and looking to government to help design solutions to the mounting problems we are facing, we are witnessing massive denial of the causes and an utter inability to grapple with serious debate on finding solutions.

We're sleepwalking toward a precipice. We need to collectively wake up.

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